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What are the requirements for a search warrant?

On Behalf of | Dec 13, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Tennessee residents are protected against unreasonable searches and seizures under the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and state law. Before law enforcement officers can search or seize someone’s property or person, they must first obtain a search warrant. There are a few exceptions to the search warrant requirement, however.

How officers get search warrants

Before an officer can get a search warrant under criminal statutes and the Constitution, they must have enough evidence to have probable cause to believe the evidence of a crime can be found in a specific area, someone located there committed a crime and a search of the location will likely uncover the evidence. When an officer has probable cause, they can then write a search warrant affidavit in which they describe with particularity why they believe there is good cause for the judge or magistrate to issue a search warrant, the location to be searched and why the search is necessary. If the judge or magistrate is satisfied that the probable cause standard has been met, they will then issue a search warrant for the specific area to be searched and evidence to be seized.

When a search warrant isn’t required

The following are a few exceptions to the search warrant requirements:

  • Areas in which the individual had no reasonable expectation of privacy (trash bin located outdoors or objects left in plain view, for example)
  • When exigent circumstances/emergencies exist (fires, screams, etc.)
  • Stop and frisk when an officer reasonably believes someone in public is engaging in criminal activity
  • Search incident to a legal arrest of the individual’s immediate area
  • Arrest in public when an officer observes an individual committing a crime

The search warrant requirements are important protections for people in the U.S. Without the constitutional protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, police officers could search anything they wanted and arrest people even when they didn’t have evidence to believe they had committed a crime.

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